? Screw tops for Sonoma-Cutrer in Texas: This is not some low-end grocery store wine, either. Sonoma-Cutrer is one of the most popular restaurant brands in the country, and its wines run as much as $65 retail. So why the new enclosures? Winemaker Terry Adams says the Stelvin screwcap makes the wine better than using a cork.
? Another reason why we like Jancis Robinson: Wine writers should be be more humble and honest, the leading English wine critic told an international panel of wine writers and winemakers in Spain. “‘We must always remember that we are parasites on the business of winemaking,” she said. Or, as the Wine Curmudgeon always says, tell people what the wine tastes like and let them make up their own minds, without any gobbledigook or winespeak or any of the other crap that too many of us foist on the public.
? Ingredients on wine labels: This proposal has been kicking around the federal agency that regulates wine sales for a couple of years. Officials want wine labels to include the same things that are on canned goods: serving sizes, calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein and potential allergens on the label. The industry is less than thrilled, citing the usual sorts of issues industries always cite. No word yet on if — or when — the government will rule on this.
? The Wine Generation Gap: Alan Goldfarb, writing for Appellation America, describes what he calls a difference in the way younger and older drinkers approach wine. I’m not so sure his analysis is completely on the mark — blaming “digital culture” seems a little simple — but there is a difference. I tend to see it centered around how my generation came to wine, which was from drinking beer, and how younger people came to wine, which is from drinking cocktails. We saw wine as a social step up from beer, and wanted to learn how to fit in. They see wine as an extension of drinking, where a 17 percent zinfandel is no different than a fruit martini made with flavored vodka. The piece is worth reading, and so are the comments.
? Wine health update: Could raise breast cancer risk, but may prevent onset of dementia in women. One of the most fascinating developments in the wine business has been watching researchers fall all over themselves to find out if wine is healthy. Not sure why that is, other than wine research is more fun to do than the usual run of academic study. But one doesn’t need research to know that wine is good for you — enjoyed in moderation with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and no cigarettes.
? Bizarre 2008 vintage for Australia: Aussie winemakers are calling the 2008 vintage one of the strangest on record — soaring temperatures above 95 for 16 days in a row in one region, alcohol levels in some grapes above 20 percent, high even for Down Under, and one of the earliest harvests ever, eight weeks ahead of normal.
This is the first of a two-part look at what's new with wine packaging. On Monday, I'll look in more detail about what might replace glass bottles.
Be prepared for some big changes in the way wine is packaged, and that doesn't mean more screwtops.
Yes, most wine is still sold in a traditional glass bottle with a traditional cork. But more wines are going to be packaged in more ways, odd though they may seem, over next couple or years ? single-serve bottles, juice boxes, and even plastic and aluminum bottles.
? No champagne for Switzerland: Or, rather, a village in Switzerland can’t call its wine champagne, even though that’s the name of the village — and has been so 885. The prohibition is part of a European Union trade agreement which restricts others from using product names for well-known items like Champagne, Parma ham, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Products can only use those names if they’re made in that region. “In this village we no longer have the right to use our own name,” said a spokesman for the Swiss town.
? Wine sales in the U.S. increase again: They were up 3.9 percent in 2007, according to figures from the Wine Institute trade group. This is consistent with the last three increases. Interestingly, the dollar volume of sales (which includes all wine sold in the sold, including imports) increased 7.9 percent, as consumers traded up to more expensive wine and the weak U.S. dollar raised import prices.
? Robert Parker movie in the works: And Javier Bardem, he of the haircut in No Country for Old Men, is rumored to be interested in playing the most important man in the world of wine. Hey, I don’t make the news up. I just report it. Though this tidbit from Decanter is a bit hard to believe: “Casting is underway with Sideways star Paul Giamatti as Michel Rolland, British star Dame Helen Mirren as Jancis Robinson, and Hugh Grant taking the role of Leoville Barton proprietor Anthony Barton.” That’s an A-list cast for a movie that not a lot of people are going to care a whole lot about.
Quite a bit, actually, if a book called The Wine Trials is to be believed. Robin Goldstein, a very personable fellow, put together tasting panels last spring in several cities, including Austin. At the various panels, 500 volunteers tasted 540 wines blind, ranging from $1.50 to $150.
Blind means they didn’t know what they were tasting. This, says Goldstein, explains why a $10 Washington state sparkling wine outscored a $150 Dom Perignon.This is what happens when you “get past the jargon and pomposity of wine writing,” says Goldstein. “People shouldn’t have to apologize for serving cheap wine.”